Keys to Successful Branding in the 21st Century

By Kathryn Pomroy on February 11th, 2019

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Branding is a dynamic and ever-changing means of distinguishing and individuating a seemingly unlimited number of consumer products and professional services offered to the vast numbers of the world’s discriminating purchasers. Despite its spontaneous and adaptive nature, some of the core processes involved in modern-day Branding reflect the word’s primitive roots.

The word Brand comes from the ancient Norse word “Brandr;” meaning to burn. In the 10th century, it meant to specifically burn wood and by the 16th century, its definition had evolved to represent the branding of livestock. Beginning in the 19th century, however, Branding began to emerge as the concept with which we are familiar today–the representation of a particular good or service. Interestingly, the first Branding actually took place on shipping docks across the nation, where crates of items would sit, waiting to be loaded onto transport vessels. Merchants discovered their wares would attract more attention and receive additional recognition if their shipments had defined representations burned into the wood from which the crates were made.

Fast forward to the 20th century; specifically, the 1920’s when author Edward Bernays  published a book entitled “Propoganda.” The book asserted the now historical theory that if a consumer product is associated with an idea, the purchasing behaviors of populations could be changed. Being the  nephew of Sigmund Freud, Bernay’s hypothesis received worldwide acclaim. Madison Avenue eventually married the book’s concept to radio and television advertising; the heir of which would change the world. The golden age of “Mad Men” had been born.

The Keys to Successful Branding

To succeed in the world of branding, one must be able to research and apply scientifically acquired statistics (with respect to human behavior) and subsequently blend those findings with artistic concepts; concepts which will appeal to the targeted focus group of consumers. In other words, branding involves understanding human behavior and know how to quantify it. Therefore, a background in behavioral psychology and statistical analysis will enhance your chances of professional success. Undergraduate requirements for a degree dictate a certain number of credits in the various disciplines; therefore, taking courses in psychology and statistics to meet them will achieve a dual purpose. If you are not suited for or planning on getting a 4-year college degree, community colleges also offer these classes, as well as ones related to business. Whatever your educational trek: a bachelor’s, associate’s or vocational degree; you will best serve your future by being mindful of the need to have well-developed research capabilities as well a keen sense artistic vision.

The following are qualities inherent to being a successful branding professional:

1. Sensitivity

Successful branders are sensitive to the tastes, wants, and needs of the consumer to whom they wish to appeal. This definitive focus is relatively new in the world of advertising and marketing. Beginning in the late 1950s, advertising executives, the most famous of whom was David Mackenzie Ogilvy “The Father of Advertising,” per Time magazine; believed the single purpose of branding was to create an urgent need for the particular product in the mind of the consumer.  Hence the advent of subliminal messaging in advertisements; messages which were incorporated into ad campaigns both at a conscious and subconscious level. Branding made it fashionable to smoke a certain brand of cigarettes, elegant to consume a particular kind of alcohol and negligent not to wash clothes with any other brand then the one presented.

The brander of today has no such aspiration. Today the work of the branding executive is to show how a product or company has a purpose and provides benefits to the consumer. In other words, the work of branding is not to create a need for the product, it is to satisfy a need, serve a purpose and provide a benefit.

2. In Tune with Statistics

In order to quantify the needs and desires of the purchasing public, the branding executive must be able to develop the means through which these needs and wants are measured. Once measurement tools have been created, the branding professional will need to properly administer and monitor the testing process. The groups surveyed must be integral to the research objectives and appropriately determined; otherwise, the branding will be ineffective. Finally, the professional brander will need to interpret the raw data which has been collected and apply it to the basic processes of branding.

3. Creative Thinker

Branding is both marketing and advertising in a highly concentrated and potent form. It seeks for its subject to stand out amongst hundreds, if not thousands of competitors. One expert in the field is Chuck Tullis, V.P. of Corporate Brands, Utz Quality Foods, Inc.  In “The Basics of Branding” Tullis outlines the following determinative tasks as being core to branding:

  • The Name
  • Color(s)
  • Slogan
  • Brand Message
  • Associated Sounds
  • Positioning
  • Packaging
  • Overall Brand Experience

To become highly successful as a branding professional in a tech-savvy and media-based global culture, you must have what it takes to expand on the core elements of the branding process and create a fresh, unique totality which embraces the values currently being expressed in the targeted consumer market. To develop a brand which will: meet the wants and needs of the consumer; be purposeful and beneficial as well as enticing and attractive; the brand developer should have an educated and natural flair for the artistic. Thinking outside of the box in new and inspiring ways will be an invaluable asset. To develop a sophisticated approach to the creative and artistic aspects of branding, one would be wise to take a variety of art-based classes. Learning the basics of color, form, expression, impact, and enhancement will bring valuable insight to the marketing table.


Branding is one of the most exciting fields in the world of art; however, it requires an individual to be sensitive, forward-thinking, technical and inspirational. Development of these qualities requires an educational background in areas such as art design, marketing, and statistical analysis. The professional Brander of today is more than an advertising executive; he or she both an artist and a scientist.